This borough at the northernmost tip of the city and the only one attached to the mainland (Manhattan and Staten Island are each islands and Queens and Brooklyn are part of Long Island) has more parkland than any of the other boroughs, a renowned botanical garden, a world-famous zoo, stately mansions, historic sites, a Little Italy, beaches, even an island reminiscent of a New England fishing village.
The Bronx has a population of 1.4 million. Famous people who have lived in the Bronx include performers Anne Bancroft, Tony Curtis, Robert Klein, Hal Linden, Penny and Gary Marshall, Rita Moreno, Chaz Palminteri, Roberta Peters, Regis Philbin, Carl Reiner; athletes Lou Gehrig, Jake La Motta; authors E.L. Doctorow, Theodore Dreiser, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Herman Wouk; statesmen John Adams, John F. Kennedy, Colin Powell; designers Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren; and the conductor Arturo Toscanini.
Background and History
The Bronx is named for Swedish commercial sea captain Jonas Bronck who in 1639 became the first European settler to establish himself in this area. In 1898, when the city became the sum of all of its boroughs, this area was called the Bronx, after the river that ran through the middle of it.
During its golden age in the 1920s, the building of the elevated subway line increased population, Yankee Stadium was built, and the mile-long Grand Concourse was fashioned as New York's Champs Elysees, lined with elaborate Art Deco buildings.
The Bronx has a greater percentage of green space than any other urban area in the country: 24% of its 42 square miles is parkland. Van Cortlandt Park (Jerome Ave.-Broadway, 718-601-1460) covers nearly two square miles and has boating, horseback riding, cricket, golf, picnicking, and tennis. The oldest public golf course in America, Van Cortlandt Golf Club (Van Cortlandt South & Bailey Ave., 718/543-3114), celebrated its centennial in 1995 and features excellent greens, tight fairways, water hazards, and a lakeside clubhouse.
Garden greenery is at its most magnificent at the New York Botanical Garden (200th St. & Kazimiroff Blvd., 718/ 817-8700). Fragrant delights on its 250 acres include 27 specialty gardens and the prized 50-acre forest, the largest remnant of woodland that once covered all of New York City.
The mighty Hudson River and dramatic Palisades (cliffs on the west bank of the Hudson River) provide the backdrop for the neighborhood of Riverdale, a hilly enclave of estates. Among these is Wave Hill (675 W. 252nd St., 718/549-3200), an acclaimed public garden and cultural institution in a spectacular setting whose 1843 mansion was home over the years to Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, and Arturo Toscanini.
Museums and Attractions
There are almost 6,000 acres of parks in the Bronx, and that's not including the world's most famous ballpark, Yankee Stadium (161st St. and River Ave., Bronx, 718/293-4300). Make sure to get tickets in advance but if you're not here during a home game, you can take an exciting behind-the-scenes tour that includes a walk on the field.
The Bronx Zoo (River Pkwy & Fordham Rd., 718/367-1010, 800/937-2868) is the largest urban zoo in the country. It is home to more than 4,000 animals representing more than 600 species
There are more than 60 landmarks and historic districts in the Bronx, including the beautifully restored 19th-century wooden Edgar Allen Poe Cottage (East Kingsbridge Rd. and 193rd St., 718/881-8900) on the Grand Concourse (the Bronx's main thoroughfare), where the great writer penned many of his most enduring poetical works, including Annabel Lee and the stately Van Cortlandt House Museum (Broadway at 246th St., 718/543-3344) ® the 18th-century plantation home of the Van Cortlandt family in Van Cortlandt Park
The free Bronx Museum of the Arts (1040 Grand Concourse, 718/681-6000) exhibits contemporary art by mostly emerging and unrecognized artists.
Dining & Entertainment
The Bronx has its own Little Italy (Belmont-Arthur Avenue Local Development Corp., 718/933-6968 or 718/295-2882) on Belmont and Arthur avenues. A feast for the eyes and stomach with colorful food markets overflowing with fruit and vegetables, salamis and sausages, homemade mozzarella, pastries and breads, a rainbow of olives, and palaces of pasta. To get here, take the 4 or D subway (718/330-1234) or Metro-North commuter rail to Fordham Road, then take BX12 or BX22 bus to Arthur Avenue.
Off the borough's northeast shore, City Island (east of Pelham Bay Park, 718/885-9100) looks and feels like a New England fishing village: boat yards, sail makers, antiques shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants. Across the way is Orchard Beach (718/885-2275), a ribbon of white sand on the shore of Long Island Sound.
Enjoy a romantic night out with your special someone at The Riverdale Garden (4576 Manhattan College Parkway, 718/884-5232) featuring no-nonsense seasonal cuisine in a casual and elegant atmosphere, including a flower garden (for dining al fresco), terrace and a wood burning stove.
The Fiddler's Elbow (3718 E. Tremont Ave., 718/863-3990) is a traditional pub a few miles from the Throgs Neck Bridge. Diners can watch all major sporting events and even wager on simulcast televised Thoroughbred and harness racing. There is a large deck and ample parking.
In the heart of the borough and minutes from Yankee Stadium, is Giovanni's NYC/G Bar (579 Grand Concourse, 718/402-6996), a restaurant and bar that attracts a professional crowd with live jazz, lobster ravioli, gourmet pizza, and valet parking.
Tours & Activities
The Bronx Culture Trolley is a free program of the Bronx Council on the Arts (718/931-9500) that runs on the first Wednesday of each month (except January) providing travel in a replica of an early 20th-century trolley car. Stops include cultural attractions, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Harlem Spirituals (212/391-0900) leads gospel, jazz, heritage, and ethnic tours. Four-hour tours on Tuesdays and Saturdays (April-October) take in the multicultural diversity of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. The year-round, all-day TriboroTuesday tour includes the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Hush Tours' Hip-Hop Cultural Sightseeing Tour (212/714-3527) explores three decades of NYC's hip-hop music scene. The 3-4 hour tours run every Saturday with celebrity tour guides discuss rapping, DJing, graffiti art, and break dancing. Harlem and Bronx sites visited include the Graffiti Wall, the Apollo Theater, and locations for movies such as New Jack City and Krush Groove.
The Surprising Bronx Bicycle Tour (201/837-1133) takes riders on an easy-paced, five-hour ride on the East River Greenway, through Woodlawn Cemetery, elegant neighborhoods, and along the sparkling Bronx River to Arthur Avenue for lunch, then to Poe Cottage. SusanSez NYC Walkabouts (917/509-3111) walking tours explore the Bronx Zoo, botanical garden, Wave Hill, City Island, and Arthur Avenue. City Island tours run on Sundays once or twice a month; Arthur Avenue on most Mondays.
More information on the Bronx:
- Bronx Tourism Council
- Bronx Historical Society
- Bronx Council on the Arts
- Bronx Schools
- Bronx Zoo
- I Love the Bronx